The State of New Zealand’s Manufacturing Industry

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While there is strong growth in the construction, meat and dairy industries, New Zealand is experiencing an overall decline in traditional large-scale consumer manufacturing. This is largely due to overseas competitors with greater efficiencies in scale and lower labour costs.

That’s not to say that New Zealand’s manufacturing industry is becoming redundant, it just looks different. Globalisation and technology have changed the face of manufacturing, providing new and better ways of doing business to meet developing commercial and consumer needs.

Much of New Zealand’s manufacturing now tends to be business-to-business, where manufacturers produce short runs of highly specialised, niche and bespoke items for their clients.

Global Supply Chains

New Zealand manufacturers are moving from cost-based to quality-based operations with a substantial increase in lean manufacturing. For some companies, it is more cost efficient to outsource part of their manufacturing process to those countries with efficiencies in scale.

In addition to reducing manufacturing inventory, outsourcing enables manufacturers to minimise the costs of holding stock and to free-up capital investment. Alternatively, New Zealand manufacturers can also be part of the global supply chain, where they are the company manufacturing inventory components that become part of a finished product somewhere else.

Providing value-for-money, specialisation and a focus on developing quality products for global niche markets will continue to define the New Zealand manufacturing sector’s competitive advantage.


Rapidly changing technology provides manufacturers with the tools and solutions to meet greater customer demand. New technologies have seen a change from the slow, manual assembly lines familiar to the manufacturing industry of old.

Additive manufacturing, more simply known as 3D printing, enables companies to easily create custom designs. A significant advantage of additive manufacturing is the speed at which components are produced where designers can create prototypes in a matter of hours. Compared to conventional manufacturing models that took days. A quicker turnaround during product development helps to streamline the overall manufacturing process.

Automation is certainly not new to the manufacturing industry, systems are far quicker and more accurate than their human counterparts and able to safely handle dangerous materials. An impressive trend is in the rise of collaborative robotics that are designed to work alongside human colleagues, and that are capable of learning as they work.

Food Manufacturing

With the potential for year-round production and an international reputation for excellence, New Zealand’s food manufacturers produce high-quality products for both the domestic and export markets.

Food manufacturing in New Zealand benefits from modern manufacturing processes and innovative technology that has been designed to overcome staffing challenges by using an automated technological approach to pick, pack and weigh fresh produce.

Looking Forward

The future of manufacturing in New Zealand will look markedly different from what we recognise. Creativity and innovation will see entrepreneurs earn an income through intellectual property and design, while sitting at their laptops. Prototypes can be developed in one country and produced in another, with manufacturing inventory management being someone else’s responsibility.

Certainly, one of the challenges that exporters and manufacturers will face is the ability to find and recruit staff with the technical skills and machinery expertise required for their operations.

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Melanie - Unleashed Software

Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.

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